Primary Resource

"The Riot in Danville," Staunton Spectator (November 6, 1883)

In "The Riot in Danville," published on November 6, 1883, the Staunton Spectator reports on racial violence in Danville that left at least five people dead. The paper assigns partial blame for the deaths to a speech given by W. E. Sims, the Pittsylvania County chairman of the Readjuster Party, who denounced the so-called Danville Circular, which had complained of Readjuster rule in Danville in general and African Americans in particular. The Spectator's reporting came on the day Virginians went to the polls to elect members of the General Assembly. The Democratic Party swept the Readjusters out of power in both houses.

Transcription from Original

THE RIOT IN DANVILLE.

When the news was received here last Saturday evening that fighting was going on in Danville, it created great excitement, as it was feared that, in the present inflamed condition of public feeling, it would cause conflicts in other cities, and probably extend over the State, and result in a war of races. The facts that the first news was general, merely stating that a fight had occurred in which some of both races were killed and more wounded, and that further news could not be obtained, and the report that the telegraph wires had been cut, added to the apprehension that it was but the beginning of a serious conflict, which was magnified by excited imaginations to grave proportions.

When the news was received next morning, bringing the intelligence that the conflict continued by a short time, and that quiet had been restored, there was a great feeling of relief in the minds of our people who were gratified to learn that their fears were not realized.

It had been apprehended that there might be riots in Danville, Norfolk, Richmond, and other places, at the polls to-day, and it is now hoped that "good may be educed from evil," and that trio in Danville on Saturday last may have the effect of preventing them to-day.

The feeling of our people is, that the colored people are not so much to blame as the whites who control and mislead them—who are in fact their worst enemies, though they make the negroes believe they are their friends. Should the negroes ever be so rash as to bring on a conflict of races, the whites, whose leadership of them has incited them to commit the act, will be among the first victims of it. If. W. E. Sims had not made the speech he did to the negroes the night before the riot at Danville, it is probable that the riot would not have occurred, and he is more culpable than the insolent negro who used the language that caused a white man to strike him, which encounter led to the conflict which caused the killing of some and the wounding of others, and has excited the people throughout the State to an alarming degree.

We earnestly hope that we will have a fair, peaceful, and quiet election. We counsel all to guard against excitement.